If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, watch the weather on December 13, St. Lucia Day (the Feast of St. Lucy of Syracuse, Sicily). According to traditional lore, sunny weather on this day foretells snow on Christmas.
Who Was St. Lucia? A Dark Tale
St. Lucia (or St. Lucy) is recognized as the patron saint of the blind, individuals with eye afflictions or throat infections, and her native city, Syracuse. She was a courageous virgin and martyr, and her story carries a poignant sadness.
Born to a wealthy Roman father and Greek mother in the Third Century A.D., Lucy embraced Catholicism during her youth and dedicated herself to a life of service to God. Despite being engaged to a man she did not desire to marry, Lucy attempted to dissuade him by offering her dowry as alms to the poor. When this failed, she simply refused to marry him.
Some legends speak of a man who claimed he was too enchanted by her captivating eyes to resist her. In response, she allegedly plucked out her own eyes and sent them to him, only to have her sight miraculously restored by God. This tale explains why she is often depicted in artwork holding a tray adorned with two eyes.
Despite such drastic measures, Lucy’s betrothed would not be cast aside so easily. After three years of rejection from her, he went before the governor of Sicily and denounced Lucy as a Catholic, a crime in the Roman Empire at that time. The governor sentenced Lucy to spend the rest of her days in a brothel, but when his guards tried to take her away, they were unable to move her, even with a team of oxen. Undeterred, the governor ordered her to be burned alive. He had her surrounded by bundles of wood, but every time the wood was lit, it miraculously went out. Eventually, her persecutors ended her life by stabbing her in the throat with a spear. A dark tale, indeed.
How Is St. Lucia Day Related To Christmas?
So what does this gruesome story have to do with Christmas? St. Lucia’s Day is December 13. Prior to the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar in 1582, this date coincided with the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, and the start of longer days to come. That, and the part of her story where she regains her sight, have caused her feast day to be associated with light. In fact, her name, Lucia, means “light” in Latin. In Medieval Europe, many recited this rhyme during the solstice:
Lucy light, Lucy light,
Shortest day and longest night.
During the long night of St. Lucia Day, revelers fought the darkness with bonfires, torchlight processions, and all-night celebrations.
The association of a white Christmas with clear weather during the feast of St. Lucy is not the only weather lore associated with this day. Another legend suggests that the weather on each of the twelve days from St. Lucy to Christmas Eve predicts the weather for the twelve months of the coming year.
Who Celebrates St. Lucia Day?
In her native Sicily, as well as in Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and areas of the United States with large Scandinavian concentrations, Lucy’s feast day remains an important part of the holiday season.
In Swedish Saint Lucia festivities, it is traditional for the eldest daughter of the household to dress as Lucy, wearing a white gown with a red sash, and a wreath of candles on her head. The “Lucy Bride” serves coffee and sweets, especially St. Lucia buns, rich yeast-leavened sweet buns flavored with saffron, cinnamon, nutmeg, and raisins (see recipe below).
St. Lucia Buns Recipe (Lussekatter)
There are many delicious recipes for this traditional Swedish treat. St. Lucia Buns are lightly sweet, buttery, and have a vibrant yellow color from the saffron-infused dough. The raisins serve as the “eyes” of the rolls and add a touch of extra sweetness. These buns are traditionally enjoyed on December 13th!
So, if you want to know what the weather will be during the coming year, or at least on Christmas day, be sure to pay attention outside your window on December 13th!
Jaime McLeod is a longtime journalist who has written for a wide variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites, including MTV.com. She enjoys the outdoors, growing and eating organic food, and is interested in all aspects of natural wellness.